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Friday, September 5, 2014

Review of a Heavily Misapplied Hermeneutic

So many poor doctrines come from the oversimplification of and broad and indiscriminate application of an otherwise noble and sound hermeneutic, when the writers of the New Testament (the Spirit of God, really) did not adhere to the rule themselves. This is the hermeneutical rule that says that we should interpret a passage the way the original audience would have. This is particularly jeopardous when we are interpreting the OT passages and think, "Well, how would the Jews have understood it?" I am not here talking about cultural contexts where the meaning of a word or phrase was specific to that era. I am speaking of things that were specific to the Jews who were in a covenant with God and would interpret his word according to their experiences with Jehovah. What is wrong with their understanding? Why should we doubt it?
Several reasons. For one, we see new Testament usage of OT passages that are clearly alien to any OT Jewish understanding of the passage from when it was first received.  What Jew would have thought that the "seed" of Abraham was referring, not to himself and his brethren, but to the Messiah?
Secondly, the Jews, like us all were limited by the flesh; sin's effect on our ability to think. They were also spoken of in terms that describe an obstinate mind--they are stiff -necked with heard hearts.
Thirdly, Jesus purposely hid the true meaning of his words from those who were not his true disciples. (See Matt 13) Romans 11:7-10 says of the OT Jews, "What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”
 And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever."
Which sets up the question, how many OT Jews were believers? The Bible does not give any indication that there were many or, necessarily more than a handful. Is this the description of people that we want interpreting God's declarations?
Given that Jesus hid the meaning of his own words from them and "God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
to this very day", why should we think that the meaning of OT passages has been hidden from them, as well? I think it is safe to assume that they were hidden but many were revealed in later canonical writings (the NT) to those who believe in Jesus.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved, Eternal Security, Perseverance of the Saints, and the Devil

There are innumerable questions that are posed in the minds of Christians daily. As a believer grows in maturity these questions usually grow in  depth. More mature Christians can often get caught up trying to answer these technical, deep, and enigmatic questions and forget that there are people struggling with a lot of the more basic questions. A question after all, no matter how 'small' (a relative idea), still needs answered. So, in an attempt to answer these questions I will be starting a series of answers to basic questions here on this blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Sprout Saved

A Sprout Saved

Cassidy was wandering through the fields and meadows. She was looking here and there. Yet she did not know what she was looking for. She saw many beautiful flowers and grasses. After not too long she happened into an area that was starting to become sparse with vegetation; a patch of grass here and a splotch of field flowers there. This made Cassidy decide she might now want to go home. But as she was about to take her last step and pivot she stopped with her lead foot in mid air. Because under her foot was a teeny tiny green little sprout.

After rushing home to tell her uncle the news she realized the house was empty except for the pet parakeet which Cassidy and her uncle Jim had hatched with an incubator they bought from the internet. She wasn't worried; the house was often found this way. It was just her, uncle Jim and Softie, the bird, that lived there. However, she wasn't alone long. "Well, I'll tell you why they will win this season without an ounce of doubt!" Jim spoke as he ascended the front porch. "I wouldn't be so sure", said a man with a hat standing just below Cassidy's uncle. Jim welcomed the debate, "Well why don't you two come inside and we can hash this out over a drink or two?" Cassidy would have to wait to get her secret out.

Uncle Jim and his two friends, Gary and George, argued for hours. They debated about the same subject until, finally, Cassidy, because she didn't think they would ever end or because she just couldn't listen to one more word, interrupted. "Guess what I found!" she blurted. As, all three men shut up and turned slowly to see what she was about, she tucked her imaginary tail between her legs and stared back with puppy dog eyes. "Well," said Jim, "what is it?" "Ummm... a sprout", she replied. "A sprout of what?" asked George. "Nobody knows", said Cassidy. The men chuckled. "How many people did you interview?" asked Gary. "Let's go take a look", said Jim.

Cassidy led the way. As she went she warned the men not to step on the wild flowers. She was afraid that they would die. Gary mumbled, "It's not like they're roses." You must understand that in their city it was illegal to kill a rose--punishable by death! The reason for this was because it had been, for a long, long time, believed that roses were the ancestors of the people of that town; by means of evolution, of course. "Well, just don't step on my sprout", she retorted. "I bet it's a rose, uncle Jim", said Cassidy. But, he just replied, "I doubt it."

Just then they happened upon the patchy area where she had spotted the sprout. "We're here!" she shouted. "Be careful where you walk now, gentlemen. Let's be careful not to crush the poor thing", said Gary. "Oh, don't be so sensitive, Gary. It's just a plant", spoke George. Jim reminded them saying, "Let's not forget the consequences of smashing a rose." "Well we don't know what it is or if it even exists, so let's not worry about it", replied George. "There it is!" exclaimed Cassidy.

The three men and the one little girl all began to get down onto their hands and their knees to get a better look at the little sprout. After they had stared at it for quite some time, one man spoke: "Well, whatever it is, it certainly can't be a rose."

"And why not?" asked another man.
"Because it is clearly only a sprout, as we can all plainly see."
"Yes, a sprout, but what will the sprout become? That is how you know what kind of sprout it is."
"Well, it really does not matter. I mean, I could squash it flat right now and nobody in their right mind would say that I had done something wrong."
"But, if it is a rose then you would have clearly done wrong."
"And, since it is only a sprout, therefore it cannot be shown that it is a rose."

At that point in the debate another person of that city happened upon the group. The stranger overheard the conversation and interjected, "There is always science you know." In fact, the man was a scientist himself. "I have a very definitive way of determining whether a plant is a rose or not: a rodometer. And, it just so happens that I have one in my work case." All the men agreed it should be tested, though some said that it would not mean anything. So, the man opened up his case and put on his lab coat and his seeing glasses. Then he took a sampling cloth and gently rubbed the sprout. After putting the sample on a petri dish and placing the dish in his rodometer he pushed the button on the top right of the machine--the red one marked "Test".

All four men and one little girl stood there while the tester tested the sprout sample. "I so hope it is a rose", said Cassidy.  However, the men were all too busy arguing to hear her. Jim didn't want Cassidy to be sad if the sprout was a rose because it would likely die. George was the only one there who did not have any children or nieces or nephews. So, by the law of the city he would have to adopt the sprout, if it was a rose. He did not want to spend all of his time and money taking care of a rose. Gary was good man who thought deeply and cared about all life. He just knew that if they weren't 100% sure it was a rose that they ought to still err on the side of caution.

"Ding!" That meant that the test was done. The scientist leaned over the machine to analyze the data. There it is. This sprout has, 100%, the DNA of a rose. "Wait, what is DNA?", asked Cassidy. Jim replied, "That's the genes--the stuff that makes our bodies into what they are." "That means it's a rose. Yipee!", she said with glee. " Gary commented, "Yep. It's conclusive proof." "Not so fast, you two," said George, "that's just one test. ...and that's just the DNA for what it will become." "You see," he continued, "a rose, like a human, is more than just its blueprint, that is what DNA is after all, a building plan. And a blueprint is not a  building. It's just a plan for a building. A rose is a flower and a flower has petals and, as you can plainly see, this... thing does not have. Secondly, a rose has a sweet perfume; this grouping of plant cells has no odor at all. Thirdly,  a rose is colorful; this new growth is just green like every other seedling." He paused to be sure everyone was understanding his argument. Then he continued, "As you can plainly see, the rose must have these three things in order to be a rose. This sprout has none of these things, therefore it is not a rose. It only is able to become a rose. And, because I don't have the ability to take care of a rose, we should kill it now, before it grows up into one, so that it does not wither away by malnutrition." "Nooooo!", shrieked Cassidy "You can't kill my rose." "Now, dear, stay out of these grown up matters. You are too
young to understand something so complex. I must do what is right and honorable", George said with pride.

George then raised his foot and placed it above the sprout to squash it to death. But, before he lowered it, there was a voice that cried out loud, "Stop!" "What do you think you are doing in my garden?", said the voice. It was a woman's voice. Then, all four men and the one little girl looked behind them and saw a lady walking toward them from her porch. "Don't kill my rose", she said. "I'm sorry ma'am, but what makes you think this is a rose? As I've just got done teaching these folks, this little piece of vegetation does not have any of the attributes which make a plant a rose. So, what makes you think you can actually call it a rose when it is obviously just a bit of chlorophyll coming up out of the ground?" "Well, that is simple", she said, "I went to the store and bought rose seeds and I planted one in a whole in a mound directly under your foot. I know it is a rose because I planted a rose there. And if you all will excuse me, I have some rose food that I bought to feed that little rose bush and I have about a hundred more in the back garden."

Cassidy shrieked again, but this time with delight. She was so happy that the little sprout was a rose for that meant that she would get to see it grow up. "Ma'am," she said, "would you teach me to take care of roses?" "I would enjoy that very much... If that is okay with your father", replied the woman. "Oh, I don't have any parents. I live with my uncle, Jim", said Cassidy. "Yes, ma'am. That would be very nice of you.", said Jim. "We are very sorry", he continued, "we didn't realize you had started a garden here." Then all four men left to go to their homes, but the one little girl stayed. And the two ladies sat and talked all about how to care for very young rose sprouts.

The End